In the main event of Impact Wrestling on AXS TV this past Thursday (August 5t), Eddie Edwards teamed with Sami Callihan and Frankie Kazarian to defeat Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers in an entertaining trios match.
Like so many of the matches that have occurred since the Forbidden Door’s opening, it’s one that would sound entirely alien to someone watching wrestling two years ago.
Thursday’s Impact also saw the debut of Melina, who signed on, at the behest of Mickie James, to challenge Deonna Purrazzo for the Knockouts Championship at NWA Empowerrr later this month.
Again, another complete curveball that illustrates the peculiar, but highly entertaining, times that we’re in.
Melina’s appearance was a little surprising, as it leaves a Purrazzo/James title match on the bone for a later date, but my highlight of the show was seeing Frankie Kazarian wrestle in an Impact ring for the first time in over seven years.
For the better part of a decade, and under a few different guises, Frankie Kazarian was an important, central part of the furniture in TNA/Impact.
He was part of the first-ever Ultimate X match in 2003 alongside Chris Sabin and Michael Shane. He was a five-time X-Division Champion and a three-time World Tag Team Champion. Kazarian and Christopher Daniels, then known as The Bad Influence, won the 2012 WON Best Tag Team of the Year – the last Impact tandem to do so. Kazarian was part of Fortune, alongside the likes of Ric Flair, AJ Styles, James Storm and Bobby Roode.
When Kazarian and Daniels left Impact in 2014, the former on a pre-taped One Night Only special, and signed with Ring of Honor, it felt like that was the last time they’d ever appear in the promotion. When they were among the first to sign with AEW five years later, that reality appeared all the more concrete. Their impressive tenures were, it seemed, now a thing of the past and consigned to rosy-eyed revisiting through TNA/Impact back catalog rewatches.
But then he appeared on the July 29 show like a mirage, hitting the ring in his now trademark black hoodie and joining Callihan in challenging the Elite.
The best part of his return is that it from a storytelling perspective it makes complete sense. The whole mantra behind Kazarian’s ‘Elite Hunter’ gimmick is that he’s going to chase The Elite everywhere and anywhere to seek revenge for them putting Christopher Daniels on the shelf. Now they’ve shown that he’s prepared to go to other promotions, including arguably the promotion he’s most associated with. Also, despite him now being an AEW guy, he’s exactly the sort of person you’d think Tommy Dreamer would contact to help lead Impact’s resistance against The Elite.
After Kazarian’s disappointing loss to Doc Gallows on Dynamite it became even more obvious that this Elite Hunter story is a slow burn, perhaps leading to the Full Gear main event. This match got him some momentum back and, as an added bonus, was also pretty good, coming in at ***1/2 in my book. Perhaps the live crowd buoyed it slightly but it felt fun and engaging and it told a simple, effective story.
Even if he doesn’t appear again, I’ll be more than satisfied that we got this moment from this period.
Having Kenny Omega as Impact World Champion is, and has been, fun. Jay White appearing in Impact and recruiting Chris Bey for the Bullet Club is cool. I love the AEW/NJPW and Impact/NJPW crossovers, like Jon Moxley against Yuji Nagata, Lance Archer against Hiroshi Tanahashi and the upcoming match between Moose and Tomohiro Ishii. But Kazarian’s return has a different significance, at least for me.
What sets it apart is the fact that I’d actually thought about it before. Omega showing up or White showing up were things I’d never really considered given Impact’s position on the food chain. Yet Kazarian’s I had, but a return for him and Daniels seemed beyond the realms of possibility. I’d ruled it out, which meant his surprise return was an actual surprise and got the reaction from me it should have.
Wrestling is cool again and Impact has been a breeze to watch since Slammiversary. I’ll say cheers to that and long may it continue!